In some industries 2013 can seem a long way off but not technology. For technology providers four years can be just a hair-pin turn away from a bridge to success or a downward slope ending in a harsh dead end depending on how carefully a route has been planned before.

Technology providers looking to make careful judgement in the road traffic space, for example, would know by now that the EU satellite navigation system Galileo and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) will be up and running in tandem in 2013, offering new capabilities for road providers on the continent. After all, it is not just civilians that will benefit from Galileo being in the sky – if the technology market, and governments, capitalise on Galileo’s availability they too could see a wealth of benefit from improved satellite communications and navigation that is EU-wide.

Legislation is already being created to make way for an influx of technologies that will be created for road users as part of Galileo. To date it seems, however, that the market is still a bit shy of entertaining a future with the system. With the delays that have already occurred with Galileo it is understandable why some may have lost faith but even so, future development should start now if players want to make big wins in this space and position themselves as industry leaders.

Galileo – for how long will it challenge?

“Future development should start now if players want to make big wins in this space and position themselves as industry leaders. “

To put it in short, Galileo is the European global navigation satellite system that will offer an alternative to the US-centric Global Positioning System and the Russian GLONASS system. Its promise is more precise measurements than both systems already in use as well as a system that will ensure Europe’s satellite coverage regardless of politics. EGNOS is a satellite augmentation system, which will supplement all three satellite systems by reporting on the
reliability of all signals.

Many benefits – military and civilian – have already been taken up by industry regarding this new satellite system. And road traffic industry players are no different. For the road traffic industry, it seems Galileo could not have come at a better time – ITS (intelligent transport systems) is now more than just a catch cry, it is an area that demands attention from industry from the bottom up.

A paper that resulted from the 2nd European Road Congress held in November 2006 says “Tomorrow’s motorists will start their journey already aware of real-time traffic situations, they will know where and when parking places are available (with the possibility to book them in advance) and if their car breaks down or has an accident en-route, assistance and emergency services will be automatically alerted through a synergy between user and infrastructure.”
Much of this is expected to be the result of Galileo.

But today, the implementation of ITS remains, according to the congress, one of the largest challenges Europe has for its road transport sector. Galileo itself is a perfect example of just how challenging the inter-continental scenario is.

Galileo has been delayed many times – much of this is to do with problems on getting member nations to agree – first on funding and second on decisions. And once in the sky, who is to say member nations will all agree on how certain technologies will be used? Spain, for example, only last month approved measure that could lead to the banning of the use of GPS devices by motorists while driving due to their use in speed-camera avoidance. Other areas, such as financing arrangements, are also causing trouble. But should this be enough to put technology vendors and researchers off?

Going for the kill

Technology always requires early leaders and early adaptors before it can reach any form of take up. That is why technology vendors should be heavily focussed on R&D with ITS and Galileo in mind. Technologies are likely to be trialled soon as efforts are ramped up to increase service provision as road demand grows and governments seek ways to reach new promises to reduce road death tolls and on-road carbon emissions.

It is already being investigated how Galileo and ITS could help with the tracking of goods across European borders – from animals to dangerous goods – as well as ways to make electronic fee collection for tolls borderless, accident reporting more seamless and congestion a thing of the past using better reporting from the sky.

The UK Department for Transport says Galileo’s new features will allow capabilities in these spaces never seen before. “The high precision clocks on board Galileo’s satellites are more advanced than currently offered by GPS, providing impressive positional accuracy and timing,” a DFT spokesperson says.

“In addition, the open service will be broadcast on two separate frequencies designed to reduce susceptibility to interference.”

“Galileo will also make available a variety of ‘value-adding’ signals designed for a particular type of commercial or public-sector user. These will have different types of built-in features such as the possibility to verify signal authenticity, improvements to accuracy, or service guarantees for critical applications. It is clear that a number of road-related applications will benefit from the introduction of Galileo, from large commercial interests right
down to the private users of individual car-based satellite navigation systems.”

But still, the spokesperson says that in the UK at least, the government does not know of any “operational road transport system on the market designed solely to make the most of Galileo.”

The future with Galileo

“Galileo will also make available a variety of ‘value-adding’ signals designed for a particular type of commercial or public-sector user.”

In future, the UK says that Galileo could help with future congestion charging schemes.

“Were time distance place charging to become a basis or option for the implementation of any future congestion charging schemes, then GNSS (global navigation satellite system) could play a major role: providing the source data for the calculation of the distance (and/or time) travelled within the boundaries of the schemes, to facilitate the computing or charges derived from this distance or the specific route undertaken,” the spokesperson said.

The GIROADS club – a project funded by the European GNSS Supervisory Authority – says that the road sector is set to benefit the most from Galileo.

“The road sector is, and will remain one of the largest markets for Galileo applications. By 2010 there will be more than 670 million cars, 33 million buses and trucks and 200 million light commercial vehicles worldwide. Satellite navigation receivers are frequently retrofitted in existing cars and could equip at least 50% of the new car fleet by 2010.”

So what is the industry waiting for? Galileo will go ahead – the amount of funding already committed to it promises that. When, of course, is still in the unknown. But even so, does that mean that vendors should not be testing their wares now, joining up with major R&D projects and research bodies and pushing the benefits of their technologies on to the governments and end users who might benefit from them?

If you have a project you are working on that is already incorporating Galileo capabilities, then let us know. Email me at [email protected].